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Black box: a peek into the ambassadors selection process

Black box: a peek into the ambassadors selection process

The Obama administration hopes to make a batch of announcements of its picks for "first-tier" embassies all at once in the coming weeks, including London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Moscow, Delhi, Beijing, Tokyo and Ottawa, The Cable hears.

Harvard’s Joseph Nye is described as "a lock" for the Tokyo job.  (He previously declined to comment).

Media reports that London would go to Obama donor Louis Susman are said to be correct. Associates waved off whispers that former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn is a possible choice to be U.S. ambassador to Moscow.

Beyond those discussed earlier for the Beijing job, The Cable has learned that David Shambaugh, George Washington University’s director of China policy and a leading U.S. authority on contemporary Chinese affairs, has been on the list. (Shambaugh declined to comment.)

Two names have been rumored for the India job: GWU’s Karl Inderfurth, a former assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs who advised the Obama campaign on South Asian issues, and Chicago Council of Global Affairs President Marshall Bouton, a former COO and executive vice president of the Asia Society, who previously served as a special assistant to the U.S. ambassador in Delhi. (Inderfurth declined to comment, and Bouton couldn’t be immediately reached.)

Washington recently appointed former ambassador to Sri Lanka Peter Burleigh to serve as the charge d’affairs and acting head of the U.S. embassy in New Delhi for four months, after the February departure of the previous ambassador, David Mulford, to become the vice chairman of Credit Suisse.   "India is just about to begin national elections," in April and May, a Washington South Asia veteran said. "Until the elections are over and a new government is formed, India is unlikely to be in full engagement mode, and it’s good to have an experienced diplomat there" — Burleigh — "in the interim months."

A batch of next-tier ambassador nominees could come in May/June.

Sources said the deputies committee, led by Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, has been generating short lists of possible ambassador appointments to forward to the White House for further consideration. A foreign embassy official said on condition of anonymity that the Obama administration recently declined to tell the embassy who its ambassador pick for the country in question would be, but assured them it would be a "great person" they "would love."